I’ve recently happened upon two blogs that are dealing with the issue of women’s appearance, and grappling with how or if we should give it the time of day. One is Helen Razer’s blog Bad Hostess, and the other is a woman from Virginia who’s unnamed, but describes herself as “A writer by day, beauty school student by night.”
Razer, a Austrailian-based writer and radio personality, has a biting wit which I appreciate. But her one post that has been pretty violently attacked, was entitled “Britney, Bikinis & Bougeois ‘Body Image’ Feminism.” Right from the get-go, I feared I would not agree with Razer. The very title of her post seemed to contradict much of what I’ve been arguing for the past year (mainly, that the biggest problem facing feminism is not pay discrepancy or even reproductive rights, but the deeply-rooted inequalities seen in the relationships that men and women have with the way they look, the way they should look, and the ramifications these answers have for all lives).
Razer starts off by discussing Britney Spears, who has recently been praised for releasing an unedited photo of herself alongside the retouched ad photo, from her latest campaign for Candies. Razer says:
“My own view is that such “real”, “bold” images are every bit as useful to the ongoing feminist struggle as, say, a discount voucher for a push-up bra. Pictures of gorgeous ladies looking a little less gorgeous than they normally might serve no real civic purpose beyond selling product.
I recall an era when feminism’s purview was not limited to banging on about the need for more fat chicks in glossy magazines. While others fight for the right to force-feed Kate Moss, I continue antique fretting over equal pay, domestic violence and federal representation. At 40, I am old and clearly out of step with a movement that demands Size 14 representation. And, at 40, I am quite inured to life in a nation that tolerates only the merest debate on feminism.”
In her comments, Razer does explain that she does believe that “bodies are central to debate.” But I think we can’t just consider these issues frivolous. The bigger problem is, of course, why Britney Spears has to take her clothes off to sell shoes in the first place. But the bigger, bigger issue is, what are the really unnoticed differences we perceive between men and women that we don’t consider on a daily basis? That’s why I think these issues matter. It’s not because of individual problems with body image. It’s about looking at why these things matter to us in the first place, and how they are dividing people. That’s why blogs like The Beauty School Project: because they’re “An investigation into the price we pay for pretty.” And it’s the “why?” behind that price is fascinating, and potentially revelatory.